X79 Preview – MSI X79A-GD65 (8D)

What Else is On-board

LGA2011 CPU Socket

This massive socket spots a pin count of 2,011 and it is a replacement of the LGA1366 socket with X58 chipset. With regards to mounting and locking the CPU in place, there are two latches to clamp down on the processor bracket locking plate (which is more than the one latch most DIY'ers would have encountered usually). All of this will likely be the same for any X79 motherboard, but the X79A-GD65 (8D) being the first that we've looked in detail, we decided to shine the spotlight a little closer on the new socket too.

The LGA2011 CPU socket is larger than the usual CPU sockets found on consumer computing platform. This is due to the large pin count which number a mind-blogging 2,011. This is mostly the result of a quad-memory controller implementation and more power/control lines to manage this complex CPU. After all, this is a workstation-class processor. Extra caution must be exercised in mounting the Sandy Bridge-E processor as the sheer number of pins translate to higher risks of them being bent due to carelessness.


The Rest of the Board

Besides sporting this new CPU socket, this upmarket board comes packed with features that would please its intended users. With USB 3.0, Firewall support, four SATA 6Gbps and four more SATA 3Gbps connectors, MSI has offered the usual icing in line with expectations of a high-end motherboard.

The board also features many LED status indicators for visual indication of CPU power loads, hard disk drive activity. They are also useful when certain components are in danger of overheating, like the DrMOS alarm. There is also a set of DIMM slot warning LEDs, which light up when installed memory modules in certain channels are not up to the specifications of the board.

The rear I/O of this board includes FireWire ports, USB 3.0 ports (in blue) and 2.0 ones as well. There is no eSATA connector nor does the board offer a second Gigabit LAN port (perhaps they might be reserved for an even higher-end board revision?) Both coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs are available though. Lastly, a CMOS clear button is also made available at the rear I/O panel in-between the PS/2 and digital audio outputs.

Interestingly, there is a clear CMOS button nestled between the USB 2.0 ports and the optical S/PDIF-Out connector. This allows the clearing of the CMOS without the hassle of cracking open the chassis. Its discreet position also makes it hard for accidental depression of the button while one usually plugs various connections at the back of the board.

The white SATA connectors are the SATA 6Gbps capable while the black ones are the SATA 3Gbps ones. Sufficient for most high-end users, but it's probably not rivaling some of the storage server monster class boards we've seen. Still, we would have preferred if all of the SATA ports were capable of 6Gbps transfers.

 The integrated ALC892 HD audio CODEC chipset is from Realtek, which has a virtual monopoly over the supply of such chipsets to motherboard manufacturers.

Breaking the ubiquity of NEC USB 3.0 controllers, the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller featured here was reportedly launched in April this year.

Our first impression of the board is that is looks similar in terms of its layout to the other X79 boards which we have had sneak previews. The list of features on-board is not terribly impressive but it is interesting to note that MSI has catered a backup BIOS in case of corruption to the BIOS ROM in use. The sheer number of LED indicators for debugging purposes is a nod to rig builders and enthusiasts who would want to fine tune the performance of their systems. We will be running tests on this board in near future to gauge its performance with a pairing of a Sandy Bridge-E processor, so do watch this space for more exciting details.